The Victorian Aboriginal Children and Young People’s Alliance (The Alliance) is calling for immediate action to review the current process for the development and implementation of cultural plans and for Department Health and Human Services (DHHS) to make the necessary changes to ensure all Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care (OOHC) have an endorsed cultural support plan.
- Numerous inquiries between 2009 and 2016 have repeatedly reported that Department Health and Human Services (DHHS) has failed to comply with Section 176 of the Child Youth and Families Act 2005 which legislates that all Aboriginal children in Out of home care (OOHC) have a cultural support plan to maintain their connection to family, community and culture. DHHS report on the number of endorsed cultural plans quarterly with the most recent data showing that as of May 31 2019 only 32.5% of Aboriginal children in OOHC have a cultural support plan.
- The establishment of the cultural support plan program is a significant acknowledgment of the human and cultural rights of all Aboriginal children in OOHC and places responsibility on the agencies involved to ensure that all plans are meaningful and relevant to the child’s age, development and circumstances.
- Currently the care team who is supporting the child holds the responsibility to develop cultural support plans.
- It is evident the current process to develop a cultural support plan is not efficient and it raises concerns about the competency of Child Protection workers to abide by the legislative requirements for Aboriginal children in OOHC.
- The current process in place to develop a cultural support plan is failing with the core issue being that non-Aboriginal people are required to identify and complete the cultural elements of the child’s plan. This factor alone has detrimental effects on the Cultural Support Plan Program as nonAboriginal people do not always understand the importance of connection to culture and therefore do not see cultural support plans as a priority.
Overall, the Alliance members and the Senior Advisors have identified the need to hold greater responsibility in developing and implementing cultural support plans as they hold the cultural knowledge and expertise to develop high quality plans. Although members are asking to take on greater responsibility, they still believe Child Protection should be held accountable and maintain some responsibility in ensuring all Aboriginal children stay connected with their culture, family and community.